Frequently Asked Questions for the RFI and National Program

As of June 29, 2017


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What is an RFI?

The Request For Information (RFI) is the first step in developing a new National Program for Oil and Gas Development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The RFI provides an opportunity for the public to submit comments and suggestions about the potential for leasing and to identify environmental and other concerns and other uses that may be affected by offshore leasing. All of this information is used in making decisions about the next National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

Why are you developing this new RFI?

The OCS Lands Act (OCSLA) requires the Secretary of the Interior to prepare and maintain a schedule of proposed OCS oil and gas lease sales determined to best meet national energy needs.

On January 17, 2017, the former Secretary approved a new National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022, to be effective mid-2017, scheduling 10 potential lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and one in Cook Inlet, offshore Alaska but excluding the Arctic and the Mid and South-Atlantic. In order to consider leasing in areas other than those in the approved Program, Section 18(e) requires that a new National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program be developed following the substantive and procedural steps discussed below. Therefore, as a key aspect for the implementation of President Donald Trump’s America First Offshore Energy Strategy, as outlined in the President’s Executive Order 13795, “Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” (April 28, 2017), and Secretary’s Order 3350 (May 1, 2017), the Department of the Interior is initiating the process to develop a new National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program two years ahead of schedule.

What does the National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program do?

The National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program provides a schedule of oil and gas lease sales indicating the size, timing, and location of proposed leasing activity.

Does the National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program still propose sales for a five-year timeframe?

Yes. The new National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program will propose sales for a five-year timeframe -- from 2019-2024. However, the RFI does not include any proposal, rather, it seeks input to inform the Secretary’s decisions on a proposed lease sale schedule later in the planning process.

What areas are being considered?

In keeping with the requirements of the OCS Lands Act, the RFI requests input on all 26 OCS planning areas. The RFI does not propose leasing in any area, nor does it provide any signal regarding future decisions on what areas will be included in the lease sale schedule. While the RFI does identify areas that are not available for lease under current law, we will still take comments from stakeholders on those areas through the RFI process.

Are you considering the Atlantic in this next program?

Yes. All areas are under consideration at this stage in the program. On April 28, 2017, President Trump announced the Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy Executive Order. The Executive Order directs the Department of the Interior Secretary Zinke to consider revising the schedule of proposed lease sales in the OCS oil and gas leasing program as well as the review of specific offshore energy regulations and processes. In response to the executive order, on May 1, 2017, Department of the Interior Secretary Zinke issued Secretary’s Order 3350, America-First Offshore Energy Strategy.

The Secretary’s Order directs BOEM to “immediately initiate the development of a new ‘Five-Year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program,’ with full consideration given to leasing the OCS offshore Alaska, Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico, in conformity with the provisions of OCSLA as directed by the President’s Executive Order.

In issuing the RFI, we don’t propose to schedule sales in particular areas, or make any preliminary decisions on what areas will be included in the schedule. The RFI provides an opportunity for the public to submit comments and suggestions about the potential for leasing and to identify environmental and other concerns and other uses that may be affected by offshore leasing. All of this information is used in making decisions about the next National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

Are you considering the Arctic in this next program?

Yes, all areas are under consideration at this stage of the program. On April 28, 2017, President Trump announced the Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy Executive Order. The Executive Order directs the Department of the Interior Secretary Zinke to consider revising the schedule of proposed lease sales in the OCS oil and gas leasing program as well as the review of specific offshore energy regulations and processes. In response to the executive order, on May 1, 2017, Department of the Interior Secretary Zinke issued Secretary’s Order 3350, America-First Offshore Energy Strategy.

The Secretary’s Order directs BOEM to “immediately initiate the development of a new ‘Five-Year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program,’ with full consideration given to leasing the OCS offshore Alaska, Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico, in conformity with the provisions of OCSLA as directed by the President’s Executive Order.

In issuing the RFI, we don’t propose to schedule sales in particular areas, or make any preliminary decisions on what areas will be included in the schedule. The RFI provides an opportunity for the public to submit comments and suggestions about the potential for leasing and to identify environmental and other concerns and other uses that may be affected by offshore leasing. All of this information is used in making decisions about the next National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

Are you considering the Pacific in this program?

Yes, all areas are under consideration at this stage in the program. In issuing the RFI, we don’t propose to schedule sales in particular areas, or make any preliminary decisions on what areas will be included in the schedule. The RFI provides an opportunity for the public to submit comments and suggestions about the potential for leasing and to identify environmental and other concerns and other uses that may be affected by offshore leasing. All of this information is used in making decisions about the next National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

What factors are considered when deciding where to hold a lease sale?

This is not a lease-sale level decision point but rather the beginning of the broader, national-level leasing program development process. At this stage, the Secretary is only establishing a schedule of potential lease sales and framing the geographic scope for which OCS development can occur.

The OCS Lands Act specifies eight factors that are considered in determining timing and location of leasing:
• Geographic, Geological, and Ecological Characteristics
• Equitable Sharing of Developmental Benefits and Environmental Risks
• Location with Respect to Regional and National Energy Markets and Needs
• Location with Respect to Other Uses of the Sea and Seabed
• Interest of Potential Oil and Gas Producers
• Laws, Goals, and Policies of Affected States
• Environmental Sensitivity and Marine Productivity
• Environmental and Predictive Information

The Secretary of the Interior considers all the above factors and balances the potentials for environmental damage, discovery of oil and gas, and adverse impact on the coastal zone in making a final decision.

What happens once the decision is made? Can the Secretary change the National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program?

Once a program is approved, the Secretary has full discretion to make changes that are determined to not be “significant” pursuant to Section 18(e) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), such as cancelling or delaying a lease sale as well as narrowing the geographic scope of a proposed leasing area, without developing a new program. However, the OCSLA requires that the Secretary may only make a “significant” revision by utilizing the same procedure as for the original program, i.e. starting the program preparation over again. A “significant” revision includes adding a sale in a planning area in which no sales were scheduled.

How will this National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program differ from the previous one?

The RFI is an information gathering document to support future decisions and looks at all 26 planning areas without any proposal of where and when to consider leasing. At this point, there have been no decisions about the areas that will be contained in the next National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

How are comments collected at this stage of National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program development used? Do they really factor into the final product?

Public input is critical to this process. There are at least three points during the program preparation process when comments are solicited. Comments on the RFI are analyzed, summarized and used to help prepare the Draft Proposed Program Decision Document, the first of three analytical proposals the Department of the Interior uses to make decisions under OCSLA. The RFI is just the first step in the program development.

How many opportunities will the public have to weigh in during the development of this National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program?

There are at least three points during the program preparation process when comments are solicited.